All posts by Peter DeHaan

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages. Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.

Do You Believe in Print?

Despite Interest in Audio and E-books, Don’t Write Off Print

printed booksAs writers our books can appear in three primary formats: printed books, e-books, and audio books.

Audio Books

Audio books have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Gone are the days of books on tape. Now it is digital files that readers listen to from their smartphones. This form of consumption has soared in the past couple of years, especially among younger generations. Audible books have also received a lot of buzz in recent months among the writing community. It seems I hear more about audio books than e-books nowadays.

E-Books

Reading books on devices is still popular. I hear the reader of preference has shifted from dedicated reading device to the smartphone. However, many mainstream media have actually reported a decrease in e-book consumption.

Yet indie authors are quick to point out that a significant percentage of independent authors do not use ISBNs. This means no one tracks their sales as a whole. They maintain, though unverifiable, that e-book sales are grossly under reported and are actually continuing their upward sales assent.

Printed Books

That leaves print. For some 500 years print was the only reading option. While prognosticators have predicted the demise of printed books for the past several years, its death has yet to take place. Yes, its market share has declined, but readers still consume printed books and many prefer the tactile, and even olfactory, experience of reading them.

Mainstream media also reports that younger generations are returning to print, apparently preferring to unplug and immerse themselves in the printed word. Besides you don’t need a smartphone to read a print book. You don’t need charged batteries and you don’t need a signal to download content.

Do you believe in print?

Books have three formats: print, ebook, and audio. Which do you prefer? Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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A Book Need Not Be Perfect to Succeed

Book success can occur without it being perfectA few years ago, I finished a novel I was reading, the first in a series.

The first chapter grabbed me, but by the second or third, some of the scenes began to irritate. They were unrealistic at portraying real-life situations. Likewise, some of the dialogue didn’t work too well for me either. It was artificial, contrived. I certainly could have done better.

Yet the plot was intriguing, so I kept reading.

About midway through, some foreshadowing suggested an implausible ending. Surely, this was a ruse. I imagined two other scenarios I deemed more satisfying. Yet, further foreshadowing pointed towards a conclusion I didn’t want. As I raced towards the finish line, the improbable ending unfolded just as I feared. The book left me unsatisfied. I was irked, bordering on mad.

And I wanted to read the next book in the series.

What? Why would I wanted to read another book in a series when the writing of the first one frustrated me?

Quite simply I’ll read more because the author did a wonderful job creating characters I care about. I wanted to see how their stories unfold. I hoped to see them continue to grow as individuals and realize the potential I see for them.

Yes, the writing could have been better, and some readers would not tolerate it. But for light entertainment it was good enough for me; the book was a success.

As writers, we need to make our books as good as we possibly can, while at the same time not becoming paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection—because there’s always something we can improve.

Book success can occur without being perfect. And I couldn’t wait to read the second book.A book can succeed without being perfect. Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start Writing

Book Length

When pitching my book at a writers conference, one industry person said my length was perfect, while another wanted it 20,000 words longer, and a third said it should have at least 25,000 more words. That’s a huge difference.

Finding the Ideal Book Length

There is no universal answer for the ideal book length, but there are some generalities. To avoid wasting time and effort, we need to be close to industry expectations when we write. Here are some ways to find out how long your book should be:

  • If you have an agent or publisher, start there. What they say, goes.
  • Ask people in the book publishing industry who know.
  • Go to a library or bookstore and look at the length of books similar to yours. (A rough average is 300 words per page.)
  • Search online (like I did) and find a lot of conflicting information, but at least it’s a place to start.
Know how long your book should be before you start writing. Click To Tweet

The main thing is don’t waste time writing a book that is way too short or too long for anyone to ever publish it. The closer our book is to our publisher’s expectations, the easier it is to tweak to meet their requirements.

Have you ever written something that was the wrong length? How are you at editing something to hit a word count? Even if you’re good at editing to hit a target word count goal (like I am), it’s a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor.

That’s why it’s best to make a book the right length to start with.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Researching Competitive Titles

Competitive TitlesA common part in many book proposals is a “competitive works” section. I recently researched competitive titles for one of my book proposals. What I saw enlightened me.

Traditionally Published Books

To research competitive titles, I first looked at books from traditional publishers. They gave me pause. I had to think a bit to determine how my book was different and how it would stand out. This challenged me, but it was a good exercise.

Each book was impressive: an attractive cover, nice title, a great concept or theme where the content flowed nicely, and professional editing and formatting. However, I didn’t think about any of these qualities at first. I expected these characteristics. Since they met my expectations, I gave these traits no thought—until I looked at some indie-published books.Our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously. Click To Tweet

Indie-Published Print Books

Next, in my competitive titles research, I looked at some print books that were indie-published. At first glance, the covers were of similar quality and the titles were almost as good.

The content, however, was not the same. The concept of these books was lacking and their execution, disappointing. Also, the writing wasn’t nearly as good. One didn’t even appear to have been edited, with sloppy formatting and missing words—and that from reading less than one page. The fault in all this is not is a tool they used to publish the book. It is the author. If you put garbage into the tool, you get garbage out of it.

Indie-Published E-Books

Last, in my competitive titles research, I considered a pair of indie-published e-books. They offered no print options.

These suffered even more. Their covers weren’t as good, and their concept was questionable. As far as the writing, the interior layout was so bad that I couldn’t force myself to read it. I didn’t include them in my “competitive works” section because I didn’t view them as competition, merely a distraction.

Takeaway

From all this I’m reminded, once again, that indie-publishing (self-publishing) is an attractive option and an affordable solution when traditional publishers take a pass on our books. While this could be for reasons outside of our control, it might also be that our content is ill conceived or our book still needs work. Sometimes this is hard to determine, especially after we’ve poured ourselves into writing it.

Regardless, if we choose to indie-publish, we need to keep in mind that our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Do Indie Authors Need to Follow Publishing Conventions?

Indie AuthorsHave you ever flipped through a book and sensed there was something odd about it? Though you couldn’t identify what was different, you knew something was off. It felt wrong. This has happened to me.

Perhaps the feeling was so strong that you opted not to read the book. Again, this has happened to me. Because my reaction to something in the layout was so negative, I have decided not to bother reading it.

When this happens it is most likely because the book deviated from some standard publishing practices. Though most readers are unaware of what these principles are, we subconsciously know when they aren’t followed. That’s when we get this unexplained feeling that something is wrong. If the feeling is strong, we might not read the book.

This is why indie authors should follow all of the time-honored traditions of book design, but there is nothing to say that we must. We can break from tradition. Sometimes we may have a good reason to not follow the rules.

The key is to be aware that the more book publishing practices we break, the greater the likelihood our finished product will produce a visceral reaction in potential readers that pushes some of them away.

As indie authors, we should follow publishing conventions whenever we can. If we do decide to break a rule, it should be for a good reason and with full knowledge that it could hurt readership.

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but they are also there to guide us. Choose wisely.

As indie authors, we should follow publishing conventions whenever we can. Click To Tweet

Have you ever had a negative subconscious reaction to a book? What publishing rules would you like to break?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Great Article on Book Cover Design

Book Cover Design

Several years ago, Karen Saunders wrote an excellent article “How to Make a Book Cover Design that Flies Off the Shelf!” Today, her suggestions are still just as valid.

However, there is one I would elevate in importance: “Seek the services of an experienced book cover designer.” I don’t view this as an option or a suggestion but as a requirement. Of course, I have no illusions about my graphic design abilities, so it is easy for me to say everyone should hire a professional book cover designer.

The only thing I might add to her excellent recommendations is to create a cover that looks great as a thumbnail. This is because most people browsing online only look at the thumbnail of the cover, not the actual cover. When you shop online, do you judge a book by its thumbnail? Click To Tweet

Instead of judging a book by its cover, they actually judge a book by the thumbnail of its cover. Make sure the title in the thumbnail is clear and easy to read. Next, ensure the reduced size graphics still communicate your intended message.

“Book cover design,” she says in conclusion “is a form of packaging.” Make sure to present your book in the best possible package.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are WrongWith changes in publishing and advances in technology, it’s never been easier to publish a book. This isn’t to imply publishing a book is easy, just that the barriers are disappearing and the costs are dropping. This emerging reality leads to two extremes of self-publishing for do-it-yourself authors who want to publish their books.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Full Speed Ahead

Seeing it’s within their power to publish their books, some eager authors take the shortest (or the cheapest) path possible to place their books in print, be it on paper or a reading device. The casualty is quality: they make their own cover, skip peer review, bypass professional editing, don’t consider the need for interior design, and fail to pick the best possible title. The middle space between these two extremes is the best way to publish books and connect with receptive readers. Click To Tweet

The result is they see their book published quickly—and it’s terrible. It is amateurish, few people will buy it, and even fewer will read it. Those who wade threw it will give it one star and a terrible review.

This makes it harder for others who self-publish to gain respect and sell books; they are guilty by association.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Do Everything Perfect

The other extreme is those authors who desire to produce the best possible book. They survey their followers to find the ideal title, hire a designer for their cover, tap a professional editor to copy-edit and proofread the book, and use someone to do the interior layout.

Along the way, they consider every option for distribution and promotion, looking at the pros and cons of each possibility, comparing risks with rewards. They know they will only be able to launch their book once and want to make sure it’s perfect.

The result is the plethora of ever-changing options will paralyze them from taking action. They will never actually publish their book, because there will always be one more opportunity to explore. Then no one will be able to read their book, because they will never get around to publishing it.

Both extremes of self-publishing are in error.

Authors must resist the urge to race unrestrained towards their goal; they must also fight to not fall victim to the paralysis of perfection. The middle space between these two extremes is the best way to publish books and connect with receptive readers.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Top 10 Posts about Writing and Publishing from Peter DeHaan

Check out my all-time, top 10 posts about writing and publishing:

Top 10 writing and publishing blog posts from Author Peter DeHaan

Based on your input, the top 10 posts are:

  1. Why Printed Books Are Still Relevant
  2. The Nine Errors of Self-Publishing
  3. 6 Writing Tips to Quickly Pick-up Where You Left Off and Not Waste Time
  4. 12 Tips for Better WordPress Content Creation
  5. Are You a Rookie or a Professional Writer?
  6. How to Format Thoughts in Writing
  7. Using Dictation Software to Write Fiction
  8. The Main Problem with Self-Publishing is Poor Content
  9. The Future of Books: What are the Prospects for Book Publishing?
  10. The Fifth Error of Self-Publishing: Formatting Errors

Thanks for reading. Have a great new year.

(To receive updates each month, sign up for my e-mail list.)

Don’t Be an Idealist If You Want be a Self-Published Author

self-published authorI once heard about a self-published author who criticized other self-published authors for having professionally designed covers and hiring editors. He accused them of selling out. He claimed it wasn’t truly self-publishing if you didn’t do it all yourself.

Rubbish.

No one can truly self-publish a book all by him or herself. Have you bought buy a printing press to print copies? Will you cut down a tree to make the paper? Do you plan to hand mix the ink? Will you ship boxes of books to each retail store or personally deliver a copy to each buyer?

Even if you skip printing and go the e-book route, will you only sell the book on your website? Who designed your site anyway? And if you did your own, who wrote the software you used to create it? If you put your book on e-book platforms, how many programs, online resources, and intermediaries will you use to make that happen?

Self-Published Authors Need to Outside Help

If you look at the theoretical meaning of self-publishing, no one can truly self-publish a book. Every self-published author needs the help of others; much of the work must be outsourced. While prepress, production, and delivery are all obvious areas requiring assistance, other items are likewise worthy of outsourcing to professionals. These include cover design, editing, interior layout, and so forth.

Just as you could design your own cover, you could also make your own paper, mix your own ink, and hand print each page on a printing press you built. All of this would be foolhardy.

Self-publishing isn’t doing everything yourself. Instead, self-publishing is taking control of your book production and distribution, tapping experts along the way to make it happen in the most professional, effective way possible.

Every self-published author needs the help of others. Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Writing is an Art; Publishing is a Business

Producing and selling booksConsider all the really great books that don’t sell. Consider some of the poorly written books that do. Although this is unfair, it is also reality. Fortuitous timing aside, these two situations point out the fact that producing and selling books is part art and part business.

I’ve been in business much of my adult life: managing businesses, owning businesses, starting businesses, running businesses, and buying businesses. Being a businessman is in my blood; it’s part of who I am. Producing and selling books is part art and part business. Click To Tweet

Writing is Art

I’ve been writing even longer, but in the past years, I’ve taken writing seriously, moving it from hobby status to professional. I’ve worked at improving my work, at communicating clearer, and at understanding the craft. Along the way, I realized writing is art. For a person who didn’t think of himself as creative, seeing writing as a form of art is huge. I embrace the role of an artist who writes. Writing is my passion. It’s in my blood; it’s part of who I am.

Publishing is Business

In accepting the reality that writing is art, while publishing is business, it would seem that as a businessman writer, I have the best of both worlds. My creative side produces content and my business side turns it into product that sells. Unfortunately I have trouble connecting the two, at least as far as my work is concerned.

Many writers also struggle with the business side of their art. And while I am closer to connecting the two, my struggle is no less real.

Though the reason why I have this issue still evades me, the solution is clear. As Nike says, I need to “just do it.” And with all the evolving technology in the world of publishing, it has never been easier to do.

Are you more artist or businessperson?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!